European platform for women scientists must have prominent role in policy process, claims study

July 29, 2003

Brussels, 28 Jul 2003

The Commission has published a study outlining possible scenarios and recommendations for the establishment of a European platform of women scientists.

In its 2001 report 'Action Plan on Science and Society', the Commission announced its intention to set up a European platform of women scientists to bring together networks of women scientists and organisations committed to gender equality in scientific research. In preparation for this, a total of 49 networks of women scientists across Europe were surveyed in order to obtain some preliminary information.

The networks were asked to comment on a number of issues, such as the objectives and possible activities of a European platform, as well as organisational, membership and funding issues.

In general, the networks surveyed agreed with the overall aims of the platform - policy shaping; networking and coordination; supporting women scientists; and information and awareness. However, an overwhelming majority of the networks thought that influencing policy at a national, European and institutional level should be the most important objective of the platform, followed by networking and awareness-raising.

In terms of practical ideas on how to influence policy, there was a general consensus on the need for the platform to monitor policy, from scientific and gender viewpoint, and to make the findings available to as many networks as possible, for example, via a databank of policies and measures to promote gender equality.

Other suggestions on how to bring the platform's influence to bear on decision- making include the establishment of national coordination points to implement European programmes, and initiatives which could form links with other policy bodies.

Amongst the more original ideas was the proposal that the platform hold a conference twice a year to coincide with the EU Presidency events so as to generate clear statements and outputs on policy. At Commission level, one suggestion was the organising of meetings with scientific officers and evaluators from the Research DG in order to ensure that the evaluation process is more women-friendly.

However, with regard to providing a gender focused platform, those surveyed warned that establishing a European platform for women scientists should not widen further the gap between women and men in science, where women have women's organisations and men have men's organisations. In this respect, the participating networks proposed that the platform should only be a temporary organisation aimed at influencing policy, making women scientists visible and guiding them to the right networks.

The platform should also seek to be as inclusive as possible, and there should not be a strict definition of a network's form restricting eligibility for the platform, networks argued. With regard to its policy-shaping role and objective of obtaining equal participation of women in decision-making bodies, some of those questioned on the subject suggested that men, as well as women politicians should be included at management level within the European platform.

They also suggested that the platform should comprise not just women in science, but also women from other areas of life, to facilitate the combination of science careers and family life.

For further information, please visit: ce-society/pdf/surveyoverview_en.pdf

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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